Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Books may be renewed





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I sometimes dredge for/ immortality, among the second-hand book shops, and elsewhere.

('A Web', A Windmill Near Calvary, Keith Waldrop)

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Up to Chapter Five 'The Perception-Image' in Cinema I and it's more or less (sometimes a little more, sometimes far less) making sense. Which, of course, is the point as I'm ever more aware of when reading Deleuze. There are paragraphs over which the eye roams and you have an impression of understanding and then sudden crystallizations - a sentence, an image - when what has come before acquires an utterly different set of possibilities. Impossible - at least for me - to read Deleuze as a passive absorption, a string of ideas served up in order. Instead, an active engagement (fight?) which also involves simultaneous other reading: Difference and Repetition, the Deleuze Dictionary, other essays, parts of interviews. But it's worth it. There's something exhilarating about reading his prose - the sheer intelligence, the range and depth of reference - and intimidating, too. Crossing to Teletheory and Ulmer seems plodding in comparison.

And, inevitably, Deleuze has revived my interest in films themselves. Sunday's viewing of Breathless followed on Monday by some early Lumiere Brothers shorts on the BFI Primitives and Pioneers DVD (workers leaving the factory, knocking down a wall, snowball fight, etc.). Then, yesterday evening, I watched Murnau's The Last Man with the extraordinary performance of Emil Jannings and that revolving door*.  And, again, it's the luxury of the holidays to allow time to distend, to be able to move from book to screen and back, a rhythm disallowed during the working months.

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"Each face, even if just seen yesterday, is different today, because today isn't yesterday. Each day is the day it is, and there was never another one like it in the world. Only our soul makes the identification - a genuinely felt but erroneous identification - by which everything becomes similar and simplified. The world is a set of distinct things with varied edges, but if we're near-sighted, it's a continual and indecipherable fog." (Paragraph 167, The Book of Disquietude, Pessoa)

A new first thing in the morning routine to read a page of Pessoa & it's perhaps inevitable that the eye lights on passages that chime with other reading. Here, what seems to be a beautiful encapsulation of Deleuze's rethinking of perception - how "an atom perceives infinitely more than we do" and that the first gesture of subjectivity is "subtractive". 

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Listening to ...

Evidence, Steve Lacy with Don Cherry
The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961, Bill Evans
Kveikur, Sigur Ros
Screenplay, John Parish
Various compositions by Olivier Greif 


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* The revolving door ... it's interesting how Deleuze homes in on the opening sequence of the camera-bicycle descending the lift and then moving towards the door. It's the door that fascinates me: the impassivity of the door boy who just stands to the side, staring impassively before him, typifying the form of alienated labour and dehumanisation the film explores in several ways. The hand is separated from intention, simply an automated movement, a wave that acknowledges no one (think Chaplin's more exaggerated wrench work at the conveyor belt in Modern Times). The contrast, too, with the smooth turning of the door (accentuated by silent cinematography) and the hustle and bustle of the affluent guests in and out as well as the constant to and fro of people and traffic in the rain outside. Yet, at the same time, there is something hieratic about the boy's pose - a guardian of the Threshold (seen, too, in the posture and regalia of Jannings as the door man). The way the revolving door starts to work in the film: mythic as wheel of Fate (the sudden demotion and the equally sudden 'stroke of luck' of the inheritance at the end) and socio-political as arbiter of employment/leisure/redundancy, old/young, movement/immobility, moneyed/poor, high and dry/ a rainy day. And, cinematically, the way the revolving door enacts Deleuze's Bergsonian fascination with the break up of continuity as images of the passersby are multiplied and dislocated as the move right to left and left to right. And, surely, a cinematic 'memory' of its zoetrope 'ancestor' - even here a kind of embodiment of the films central theme of the casualties of progress? 

To think ... a week ago & I wasn't even aware of this film. I'm now thinking I could build an entire course around it. 

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Wet. Then sun. 

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It seems my crystal ball was not so grubby ... ... resisting the temptation to say "told you so".